Developments regarding attempted shutdown of UCT

25 October 2017 | 11:00

Dear students and colleagues

Please take urgent notice of the following developments on campus.

A mass meeting called for by protesting students took place from 13:00 to 14:00 in the Memorial Hall yesterday. The group left the Memorial Hall and some protesters entered the New Lecture Theatre and several other buildings on upper campus. Several lectures were disrupted, evacuation alarms were set off, some laboratories and buildings were evacuated and several tests were disrupted. The group then made its way to the library, which was briefly closed as a consequence, but reopened shortly thereafter. The group moved to the Bremner building, where a memorandum with several demands was handed over to the Vice-Chancellor, Dr Max Price.

Yesterday evening the UCT executive and members of the Senior Executive Task Team (SETT) initiated a meeting with Students’ Representative Council (SRC) members and protest leaders. The meeting discussed the students’ demands. The executive indicated that some of the demands are already being addressed, or are in the process of being addressed, and that there is a continued commitment to try to resolve the issues.

However, some demands were outside the scope of the executive’s ability, eg the release of the Fees Commission report (which only President Jacob Zuma can do). There was also a need to clarify details around some demands. During the meeting, further demands were listed to which the executive simply could not immediately respond, including a call for the entire institution to be shut down on Wednesday, 25 October 2017, and that all staff and students should join a march to parliament. The executive indicated that this demand was not feasible and could not be met.

This morning we released a communication to indicate that UCT operations are proceeding today, Wednesday, 25 October 2017. (Read the communication...) It was necessary to do so as social media posts claimed that the executive had agreed on a shutdown, which is inaccurate.

This morning several protesters attempted to disrupt services on campus and set off several fire alarms. We remain deeply concerned about the impact of these disruptions and attempted shutdowns on students’ ability to perform academically and for staff to ensure the continuation of the academic programme. We remain committed to continued engagement in our efforts to resolve issues, but we are deeply concerned about these forced shutdown attempts.

In light of the disruptions to academic operations on Tuesday, 24 October 2017 – including laboratories that typically house dangerous materials – and the indications that there might be further disruptions today, Wednesday, 25 October 2017, the executive made a decision this morning to secure the services of a private security company with the express brief to assist in safeguarding high-risk venues on campus. This is a decision that has not been taken lightly, but one that has been fundamentally informed by health and safety considerations for the staff and student community of UCT. The university has obligations in terms of the Occupational Health and Safety Act to take steps to ensure that the health and safety of staff and students are not compromised.

Please note that the company is not Vetus Schola but a separate organisation. We have briefed the company fully on the scope and limitations of their work. The company is deployed to safeguard high-risk venues. Staff and students might notice the officers in their duties on campus. Please allow them to do their work. To interfere with their services may cause a serious health and safety risk.

Please take urgent notice of these developments. Department heads are asked to ensure that staff and students have been made aware of the situation and the seriousness thereof.


Communication and Marketing Department

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